IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Heterogeneous Life-Cycle Profiles, Income Risk and Consumption Inequality

  • Primiceri, Giorgio E.


    (Northwestern University)

  • van Rens, Thijs


    (University of Warwick)

Was the increase in income inequality in the US due to permanent shocks or merely to an increase in the variance of transitory shocks? The implications for consumption and welfare depend crucially on the answer to this question. We use CEX repeated cross-section data on consumption and income to decompose idiosyncratic changes in income into predictable life-cycle changes, transitory and permanent shocks and estimate the contribution of each to total inequality. Our model fits the joint evolution of consumption and income inequality well and delivers two main results. First, we find that permanent changes in income explain all of the increase in inequality in the 1980s and 90s. Second, we reconcile this finding with the fact that consumption inequality did not increase much over this period. Our results support the view that many permanent changes in income are predictable for consumers, even if they look unpredictable to the econometrician, consistent with models of heterogeneous income profiles.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3239.

in new window

Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Monetary Economics, 2009, 56(1), 20-39
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3239
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. John Y. Campbell & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1989. "Consumption, Income, and Interest Rates: Reinterpreting the Time Series Evidence," NBER Working Papers 2924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Olga Gorbachev, 2011. "Did Household Consumption Become More Volatile?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2248-70, August.
  4. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2004. "Cyclical Dynamics in Idiosyncratic Labor Market Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 695-717, June.
  5. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2004. "Consumption inequality and partial insurance," IFS Working Papers W04/28, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  6. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris Telmer & Amir Yaron, 1997. "Consumption and risk sharing over the life cycle," GSIA Working Papers 228, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  7. Jonathan A. Parker & Bruce Preston, 2005. "Precautionary Saving and Consumption Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1119-1143, September.
  8. Orazio Attanasio & Steven J. Davis, 1994. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," NBER Working Papers 4771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Kjetil Storesletten & Gianluca Violante & Jonathan Heathcote, 2007. "Consumption and Labor Supply with Partial Insurance: An Analytical Framework," 2007 Meeting Papers 913, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. R. Moffitt & P. Gottschalk, . "Trends in the covariance structure of earnings in the United States: 1969-1987," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1001-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  11. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
  12. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, with and without Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 23-45, Summer.
  13. Mark Huggett & Gustavo Ventura & Amir Yaron, 2007. "Sources of Lifetime Inequality," NBER Working Papers 13224, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Gervais, Martin & Klein, Paul, 2009. "Measuring consumption smoothing in CEX data," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0906, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  15. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L, 2004. "Two Views of Inequality Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 4728, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James & Navarro, Salvador, 2004. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Working Paper Series 2005:6, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  17. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris I. & Yaron, Amir, 2001. "The welfare cost of business cycles revisited: Finite lives and cyclical variation in idiosyncratic risk," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1311-1339.
  18. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1995. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1121-57, December.
  19. Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio, 2005. "Does income inequality lead to consumption inequality? Evidence and theory," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/15, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  20. Giorgio Primiceri & Thijs van Rens, 2002. "Inequality over the Business Cycle: Estimating Income Risk using Micro-Data on Consumption," Macroeconomics 0212003, EconWPA.
  21. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-67, June.
  22. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  23. Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio, 2002. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality?," CEPR Discussion Papers 3583, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  24. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2001. "The Empirical Importance of Precautionary Saving," NBER Working Papers 8107, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Robert A. Moffitt & Peter Gottschalk, 2002. "Trends in the Transitory Variance of Earnings in the United States," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages C68-C73, March.
  26. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Fatih Guvenen, 2006. "Learning your earning: are labor income shocks really very persistent?," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 145, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  28. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
  29. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman, 2006. "The Evolution of Labor Earnings Risk in the US Economy," 2006 Meeting Papers 665, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  30. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1996. "Asymptotically Median Unbiased Estimation of Coefficient Variance in a Time Varying Parameter Model," NBER Technical Working Papers 0201, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  31. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "An Empirical Investigation of Labor Income Processes," NBER Working Papers 13394, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  32. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "State-Space Models with Regime Switching: Classical and Gibbs-Sampling Approaches with Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262112388, June.
  33. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 163-193.
  34. repec:oup:qjecon:v:113:y:1998:i:2:p:603-640 is not listed on IDEAS
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3239. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.